Thursday, February 24, 2011

There Is A War (cc: Neko Case)

There is something in the American Psyche® -- a figment of our lingering Puritannical cultural trappings, maybe? -- that keeps bringing people to connect sexual morality with maturity. It's difficult to know what Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan would do without it, so as questionable as the link may be, it at least keeps a few people gainfully employed. I touched on the connection as it played out in The Hangover, and Kay Hymowitz provides a more recent instance, in which she holds forth on the terrible quality of men today:

[P]re-adults differ in one major respect from adolescents. They write their own biographies, and they do it from scratch. Sociologists use the term "life script" to describe a particular society's ordering of life's large events and stages. Though such scripts vary across cultures, the archetypal plot is deeply rooted in our biological nature. The invention of adolescence did not change the large Roman numerals of the American script. Adults continued to be those who took over the primary tasks of the economy and culture. For women, the central task usually involved the day-to-day rearing of the next generation; for men, it involved protecting and providing for their wives and children. If you followed the script, you became an adult, a temporary custodian of the social order until your own old age and demise. [emphasis mine]
Ah, the Goode Olde Dayes, when men reached statutory maturity and got straight down to the business of eagerly awaiting their death whilst impatiently checking a pocket watch over and over as their wives popped out babies. These days, according to Hymowitz, more and more men seem to be declining the obvious and compelling charms of this vigil well into their twenties. Weird!
What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It's been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing. [emphasis mine]
A phrase like "puerile shallowness" indicates that for all her commendable effort to locate cause and effect in the material circumstances of the people she's describing -- exactly the right place to look for it, methinks -- there's an element of a far older script being re-told here, namely the one in which men and women disagree over sex and love. Men complain about women; women complain about men; it was ever thus, and the tragedy is that both sides have a good case to make. We are a species of assholes, or for those who prefer to tag "asshole" with a masculine connotation, I'll clarify that we are a species of assholes and bitches, and words like maturity and immaturity are little more than two of the common glosses we use to articulate the details.

In another re-telling of this ancient script, Ann Friedman awkwardly runs right past the fact that I'm sitting right here and argues, of all things, that Neko Case Can't Get Laid:
It’s true that everyone in the world thinks everyone else is having more sex than they are. Especially people they consider attractive. I am here to tell you that this is probably not the case! And it is definitely not the case when it comes to accomplished and funny and beautiful women who would like to be having sex with men.

Are you shocked by this news? Yes? Welcome, heterosexual male readers!

Some evidence to support my statement, because I’m unwilling to go personal on this one: Neko Case can't get laid. Neko fucking Case! An accomplished musician who, even by rigid mainstream beauty standards, is gorgeous. Salon diagnoses the problem as a dearth of male groupies.
I read that bit in Salon dot com when it was first published, and my reaction today is the same reaction I had then: I am prepared to prove otherwise. Call me, Neko. Seriously. You're My One, i.e., my wife says she won't mind -- I say the same thing for her with respect to Denzel Washington. It's really OK. Call. Write. Stop by. We can fix this.

Some call it love, I call it service.

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